Its sounds like a nice prayer, but apparently its an old Chinese curse!
Some people thrive on adventure, challenge and controversy. Most of us just want to get on with our lives as quietly as possible.
Thus the curse! Interesting times could certainly be a description of our present situation. However as Muslims we should expect difficulties. Life, after all is a test. What right do we have to be surprised or disappointed when the test comes since we have been amply fore warned by our Beneficent Lord.
Still, sometimes, like they say, when it rains, it pours.
Do you ever get those days when everything seems to happen, all at once in one day?
Well I had a day like that last week.
Thursday 7 Dec. The day we prayed janaza for Alexander Litvinenko.
That's where it all began. The press had descended on mass to the mosque, and I was busy on the phone seeing if the save Chechnya campaign should issue a statement, and trying to get the go ahead from Dr Ahmed, the director of ICC to say something. He agreed, as long as it was totally non-political, which is fair enough. In the end nothing came of it, but it was a sad site to see the feeding frenzy of journalists swarming around Alexander's father, who looked so dignified. I just wanted to chase them all away.
Then I had a group from an adult education college who were late.
Not a problem normally, but I had to be in Ilford to give talk to a group of "A level" grammar school girls who were holding a whole day conference with different religious speakers on the topic of "Suffering."
Well, I made it with seconds to spare, and promptly got grilled, not on the topic itself, but on everything else the girls came up with, like "What's wrong with a Hindu marrying a Muslim? Surely if such marriages happened more often there would be more inter-community harmony and understanding?"
Well you get the idea. Not an easy ride. Not that I mind. Actually I love it, but I was at pains to point out how futile it was me trying to explain these things if one doesn't understand the essence of what Islam is all about.
Well the real shocker comes at the end of the day. Something I really wasn't expecting, at all. I get a call from a journalist called Peter Wilson, European correspondent for "The Australian", the Daily Telegraph sister paper down under.
Apparently the "radical" firebrand preacher had raised his head there again...sorry that's me if you didn't realise...and my name has been linked with an appalling incident of desecrating the Bible by some teenage boys at a Muslim school in Melbourne, Australia.
Well you can read all about it here and here
and see and absurd TV news clip here. Please notice that although they have clips of me, NONE of them actually show me saying the things that I'm supposed to have said! I wonder why?
I challenge any of them to actually put the whole speech up on you tube and let people see for themselves how "radical" my speech really is. I doubt they'd do it.
Of course the whole incident is really shocking, but I'm the one at the receiving end of these teachers doing the best to dig up dirt and find someone to blame. Who better than the "banned cleric radical Muslim convert bla de bla.."
Really the press can be so puerile. How childish, sensationalist and twisted can you get. I say "If you live in a sewer you can't expect to come out smelling of roses" is twisted into "Australia is a sewer!" Duh!
So if say "let sleeping dogs lie", I'm calling you a dog or "What's good for the goose is good for gander" I'm calling you a gander. Double duh!
I could go on!
I suppose I should try and explain what it is like to be on the receiving end of such travesties, but I'll just say that it is extremely unpleasant. Be very skeptical about anything you find written in the press, or claims that so and so said such and such.
Well, to be fair to Peter he gave me a good shot at responding to the allegations, and wrote a fairly sympathetic article, although in condensing our hour and half long conversation to a few columns really didn't reflect the care I took to explain myself.
Let me give one example. He quotes me as saying that Usama bin Laden is a "twisted" murderer, which I suppose from the point of reference of our average Aussie reader that is actually a good thing for me to say, hey it might even be "radical for a radical!" But personally I felt somewhat upset by that. In fact when he asked me Usama, I hesitated. He even asked me why after all that had happened did I hesitate.
I explained that I thought bin Laden had started out very sincerely. He gave his life of luxury to fight jihad against the Russians, but his ideas had become twisted, probably by Zarkawi. I was unequivocal that terrorism is murder in the name of Islam, but then Bush and Blair are also in my view murderers also, but in name of democracy and freedom. I can see where he got "twisted" murderer from, but it hardly reflects the complexity of my views on the matter. Actually, even my "version" is condensed, which is a lesson I suppose for my self in the difficulties of journalism.
One of things that I mentioned to Peter is that I try to empathize with people, be it Bin Laden, Bush or Blair, or those journalists trying to make a story. We should really think, what would I do if I was that person, in their shoes, with all their responsibilities? How would I behave? Perhaps we all like to think that we would be so much better, but I wonder, I really wonder. I think that if you look deeply and honestly into yourself you might find that you could be even worse.
All this also reminds me of the numerous times I have made "cheep shots" at Bush, Blair and others. I wonder if I would talk like that if they were standing right in front of me! It also reminds me of great difficutly speakers like Hamza Yusuph have faced, who's firey condemnation of the US Dajjalic system contrasts so much with his firefighters are martyrs comments. Easy to be critical,, but step in his shoes and see how hard it is. What comes around goes around, I suppose!
All of this brought into focus one essential matter that had been bugging me since that day.
Are my attitudes and opinions changing because I think I was wrong and misunderstood the deen, or have circumstances made me reinterpret the deen in a manner that I imagine will make my life easier.
This is a very difficult question we all need to ask ourselves about. It centers on ilm (knowledge) and ikhlaas (sincerity).
In the last few days I came across these verses that filled me both with hope and longing for Allah's pleasure and good reward, and fear and dread that I might have broken my convenant and failed to live up to my promise to worship Him alone and adhere to His guidance.
Al Ra'd Surah 13
19. Is then one who doth know that that which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord is the Truth, like one who is blind? It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition;-
20. Those who fulfil the covenant of Allah and fail not in their plighted word;
21. Those who join together those things which Allah hath commanded to be joined, hold their Lord in awe, and fear the terrible reckoning;
22. Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; Establish regular prayers; spend, out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (eternal) home,-
23. Gardens of perpetual bliss: they shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring: and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation):
24. "Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!"
25. But those who break the Covenant of Allah, after having plighted their word thereto, and cut asunder those things which Allah has commanded to be joined, and work mischief in the land;- on them is the curse; for them is the terrible home!
26. Allah doth enlarge, or grant by (strict) measure, the sustenance (which He giveth) to whomso He pleaseth. (The wordly) rejoice in the life of this world: But the life of this world is but little comfort in the Hereafter.
May Allah forgive us and guide us all on the path of His goodness. Amen